Question: Are women different from men? Answer: YES
Do they behave differently when they are buying? YES
And if they are different, shouldn't we be marketing to them in a different way? YES
Enough of this equality and sexism nonsense, women are not the same as men. At last, I’ve said it!
WHAT I REALLY, REALLY WANT!
(Spice Girls, 1996)
If men and women behave and act differently from each other then maybe their approach to marketing and selling, and more importantly to buying, is also different.
The women’s market is an under-developed opportunity, possibly the number-one opportunity, for those who really understand what women really want.
Women are now the key decision-makers. Faith Popcorn, one of America's foremost consumer trend experts, says that "companies think they're marketing to women – who buy 80 per cent of the products and control 80 per cent of the money – but they're not. They're not talking to women. They don't know how to talk to women. Just like they have no clue what to give their wives for their birthday. They really don't realise that women have a separate language and a separate way of being."
Women are the primary decision-makers for consumer goods in 85 per cent of households. They make 75 per cent of decisions about buying new homes, and make 81 per cent of the decisions about groceries. They influence at least 80 per cent of all household spending.
WHY CAN’T A WOMAN BE MORE LIKE A MAN?
(My Fair Lady, 1964)
All marketing professionals should focus their undivided attention on women. This is not simply a big business issue, this applies to you and how you do business with your customers.
Martha Barletta explains how women reach purchasing decisions in a different way from men: "Men and women don’t communicate the same way, and they don’t buy for the same reasons." She continues: "He simply wants the transaction to take place. She’s interested in creating a relationship. Every place women go, they make connections… 91 per cent of women say 'Advertisers don’t understand us'."
Men dominate most industries and the advertising industry is no exception. Although roughly half of advertising staff are women, men monopolise the coveted creative positions.
So, to set the stage, we have advertising departments selling advertising space to male-dominated advertising agencies that have sold "beautiful" concepts to male business owners, executives and boards to help sales to females (who we all acknowledge are not the same as men).
Thankfully, rising female consumer power is changing the way that some companies design, make and market products – and I have to say that this is more than just "making it in pink" (although by last year’s pink sales one has to say that this simple strategy can pay off big time!).
The recognition that women buy differently is being acknowledged in the States. Women do buy differently from men – they are less likely to be influenced by ads and more likely to trust editorial content.
Female consumers want to know what the product is going to do for them. In short, how will it help them or make their life easier? And how do women get this information? By research – and lots of it.
Women, as consumers, are not a homogenous group that behave and act in a uniform way. Being patronising, smug or insincere will not get you more sales. Women will spend more with a brand that acknowledges their lifestyle.
It's important to think of each potential female buyer as an individual and focus on her needs. What stage of life is she at? How can your product make her life easier or more fulfilling?
So, one lesson is that print/traditional advertising will be less effective and subtler ways of communicating might work better, such as word-of-mouth, viral marketing.
To go one stage further, it is time to design products (and marketing campaigns) that actually appeal to the buying needs and habits of women. There’s a thought!
In the US in 2001, 3.6 per cent of all new products were specifically tailored to women. That number more than doubled to 7.9 per cent by 2005 according to Datamonitor’s Productscan Online. Some were great but some were just a marketing hook to target women.
Do you remember the Samsung SGH-E530 mobile which came in lavender pink with women-friendly features like a calorie counter, fragrance-coordinator and a menstrual cycle calendar? Is this product edgy or patronising? Other offerings that seem better to me included:
* Barbara K's 30-piece tool kit aimed at the 75 per cent of women planning on doing some DIY themselves. These tools are not only better looking but are also made for a woman's size and strength. They weigh a little less than regular tools, and the grips are sized to better fit a woman's hand.
* The iPod Mini digital music player comes in several colours and has drawn more women buyers than the standard white models. At the same time, accessories for the iPod market have exploded, attracting even top-end fashion houses like Burberry to make carry cases.
* Harley-Davidson, long a symbol of male pride, added a section on its website dedicated to women motorcyclists, with tips on how to ride a bike safely with the right gear. Harley was responding to the growing popularity of motorcycles among women. Women now buy ten per cent, or 23,000, of all Harleys sold, against just two per cent in 1985.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING
(Bob Dylan, 1964)
So the situation is as follows:
* Women are the number-one business opportunity. As business guru Tom Peters says: "They buy lotsa stuff."
* Men and women are very different.
* Men are (still) in control and are totally, hopelessly, clueless about women.
* Not enough "stuff" is designed for women or communicated in a way that appeals to women.
* Most stuff for women is, to be frank, pretty patronising.
* We are witnessing these changes in the States but little seems to be changing on this side of the pond.
So, there’s your opportunity. Do I have to spell it out to you? I don’t think so.
This is not a feminist thing but a straight-down-the-line commercial argument. Women are not a niche market or a minority – they have wallets and, for many businesses, women as decision-makers and consumers hold the key to future success.
IT’S A MAN’S WORLD…
(James Brown, 1963)
Men, stop singing those dodgy James Brown songs! Those businesses that do not change their male approach to the market will get left behind. More importantly, some of your competitors will take the importance of communicating effectively with women on board – and will take business away from you.
So, what's to be done? Women are not simple, rational, economic decision-makers. They are emotional beings and will respond to calls on their attention that fit with their view of the world.
Women are now the key decision-makers and purchasers to be courted. Ignore them at your peril. You have been warned!
* Build relationships with female customers. Use personalisation tools to create deeper knowledge of their buying patterns. Avoid negative campaigns and focus on creating an entertaining, emotionally engaging experience.
* Businesswomen have money to spend but little time to spare. Be direct and clarify the benefits in terms of time, money and space savings. Don't pussyfoot around – offer solutions.
* Be holistic rather than homogenous in your marketing approach. Women multi-task whereas men are more single-minded at work. Market to the "soul" in a way that respects her time organisation, not the "role" she plays.
* Think from a woman's perspective. For example, Dutch Boy's "twist-and-pour" paint applicator replaces traditional messy tins to such an extent that revenues tripled in the first six months of launch. The packaging benefits to women are transparently obvious.
* "Men flick, women stick" when browsing the web. Women are deeper and detail matters (such as after-sales service and warranties).
* Use testimonial PR case studies rather than "testosterone ads" and remember that women have a good sense of humour. Appeal to it!
* Stereotype women (ban Oxo mums, beauty bunnies, greying grannies, senseless secretaries etc).